Ten Tips and Tricks for Filling Out a Disability Update Report (SSA-455-BK)

740ea027b0f850356e49297b9c2818a6The Disability Update Report is a quick form that Social Security sends out to help them decide whether they are going to do a Continuing Disability Review for you this year.

The update report is often called “the Short Form.” This form is not a medical review. It is just a little form they use to decide if they want to do a medical review. When you get a short form, Social Security does not contact your doctor or look at any of your medical records.

The short form is a very simple form that only takes five minutes to complete. Ten short form tips:

# 1 – Understand the Short Form

The Short Form is not a disability review. Social Security will not collect your medical records. They will not decide if you are disabled. The short form is just a quick screening where you check a few boxes, and then the computer decides whether to send you a long form. Most of the time, short forms simply pass with no further review needed.

# 2 – Try Not to Get Too Stressed

Many of our readers report getting overly stressed and having worse health and mental health symptoms because of reviews. Please try to take care of yourself.  It may help to keep in mind: No one gets cut off disability because of the short form. This is just a small screening form. Most short forms pass without problems.

# 3 – Make a Copy Before Starting

This way if you check the wrong box or make a mistake, you will have a blank copy to work with. We have heard from many many readers who did not make a copy first and regretted it. Please make a copy if you are able.

# 4 – Answer Honestly

It is important to answer all questions honestly, especially about working. Social Security checks IRS records to see if people are working. They can also check bank accounts.

# 5 – List Your Reason For Doctor’s Visit

Most questions on this form are very straight forward, but some people struggle with what to write in the boxes for “reason for doctor’s visit.” The Social Security policy manual does not give any specific guidance on how this section should be filled out. Most people write down their diagnosis in this box. For example, “Bipolar.” But some people write something more general like “Psychiatric Treatment” or “Medication refill.”

Tip: Telehealth and video visits are now treated the same as an in-person visit. If you are doing video visits with your doctor, you can list these.

# 7 – Advanced trick: Look Up Your Profile Code

You don’t have to do this. You can if you want!

Your profile code is either “low” “medium” or “high”. This code may be used to help determine if your form will be automatically approved right now, or if they might have to send you a long form for a more detailed review: How to find your profile code 

# 8 –  Advanced trick: Learn the Short Form Magic Trick

Social Security has put a system in place where most short forms are processed by a computer that will scan in the boxes on the form. This computer has the ability to make a decision without being read by a human. Your form can be reviewed by a computer without being seen by a human if:

  • You are not working
  • You have included no remarks and nothing written in the margins
  • You have included no attachments
  • The form is signed
  • All questions are answered
  • Form is completed in English
  • You do not have other unresolved Social Security issues
  • You do not use this form to change your address

Many people with a “low” profile code decide they would rather just have their form read by a computer. Because it is sometimes faster, and likely the computer will just automatically approve them!

# 9 –  Should I Include Remarks and Attachments?

There is no wrong or write answer to this.

Some people with a “low” profile code decide to include no remarks and no attachments. This way their form just gets read by the computer. Done! If your profile code is low, and you have 3 doctor visits within the past 2 years, and you are not working, there is a very good chance the computer will automatically approve you! Including remarks and attachments will just slow things down and make your application go to a human who will have to read through everything you send and make a more detailed decision.

Some people with a “medium” or “high” profile code decide to include remarks or attachments. People may decide to do this if they feel they want their application to be read by a human because they have medical records or documents from their doctor that they want to enclose, proving that their condition is still severe and has not improved.

If you’d like to see some excruciating details on how Social Security processes these codes, look here:

How Does Social Security Process a “Low” Profile Code

How Does Social Security Process a “Medium” or “High” Profile Code

# 10 – Don’t Panic 

Just do the best you can with it. You won’t lose your disability because of crossing something out or accidentally writing the wrong word in one box. As long as you are honest on the form and make your best effort to answer the questions honestly, you won’t be penalized for a small mistake. If the computer has trouble reading your form, the form will just go to be reviewed by a person and take a little longer. In the end, the outcome should be the same.

Learn More

More important info on: How to Fill Out a Disability Update Report 

If you would like to read some excruciating and impenetrable instructions on how the Short Form is processed, here you can find the policy manual for the short form.

This page is part of the free online guide Everything No One Ever Tells You About Living on Social Security Disability

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons:

31 thoughts on “Ten Tips and Tricks for Filling Out a Disability Update Report (SSA-455-BK)”

  1. I just received my update report, I am on disability for neurological disorder (severe headaches/migraines) and Musculoskeletal disorder (back and neck pains). I’m lost at what to write in the doctor visits since I don’t have enough room to list whey I went to my visit. Would it be ok to write for 1) Back pain 2)Medication check (not sure how to word Medication refills) 3) Chronic Pain? My third visit i went to get a medical card for neck, back, migraines, depression and anxiety. I really wish they would give us more room to write things


  2. How do I correctly answer my work history if I don’t have a conventional job? I am guess I’m self-employee but I don’t make enough to file taxes and my jobs change frequently. How do I fill out the employment section of the Disability Update Review paperwork if I don’t have a “real” job?


  3. Has anyone filled out on the short form CDR online? Does anyone know how it’s processed compared to mailing it?


  4. I got the short form in August 2020. I haven’t heard back still in June 2021. I called and they said they don’t know anything and that it probably means they won’t do a full review because I never heard anything back. Does that sound realistic? Do they not notify you of anything if they give you the short form and decide not to do a full review?


  5. If I could offer tips for this and when dealing with a similar situation in life. Simply answer the questions asked and do not offer any new information.
    with the mail. Are you working it is either yes or no.
    Did you attend school. It is either yes or no
    Listen to your 3 most recent medical visits. Simply list your 3 last doctor’s visits.
    did you have hospitalizations say yes or no?
    The final one is asking if you are feeling the same, worse or better. If you do not feel better or worse then just say the same.
    The purpose of the mailer is to determine if social security needs to do a medical review. It likely costs social security more money to do review a disabled person than to simply approve them as they have to prove that you’re able to work which means you have to have improved since the last update. If they are not asking you for a medical record or anything else do not add anything new. If you are already receiving benefits you’re being sicker than you are is not going to get you more money.


  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this very useful information.

    Thankfully, I made a copy of my short form because I made a mistake.

    I am concerned because I read some where that a copy will be flagged for human review because the paper is not the same thickness as the original form. Have you ever known that to happen?



  7. Hi there! This site is great, lots of very useful information.

    Now, a possibly stupid question from a probably stupid and somewhat panicked person….

    Last summer, when they sent out the stimulus payment, I knew I had to find things to spend it on as I didn’t want to risk going without Medicaid during Covid. Now, I live with my parents and pay them a monthly amount for rent. So I thought I’d pay future rent in advance and labeled it as such when i transferred the funds. Then, since then, I’ve just paid my normal rent…figuring I’d let the “future rent” count for months when I was low on money. For some stupid reason I assumed this was all A-OK.

    It recently occurred to me that this might not be OK at all. But when I looked at the rent agreement, I noticed that I’ve actually been unintentionally underpaying my parents for years (long story). The amount I owe them is waaay more than the so-called “future rent”. So…I could just count it as paying them back what I owed them?

    So…am I in the clear, or not?

    All I can say is I have not been thinking very clearly for some time, I think its my medication…


  8. The Doctor does decide if the patient can/can not work. That is how SSA determines if one qualifies for disability yes or no? If the Doctor says the person CAN WORK, the claim will be denied.


    1. it would have been better just to say yes and prepare your explanation if you have a medical review. Unless it is required do not offer any more information than what is asked. Obviously, you are disabled if you get this form and the only reason they would require you to do the Medical review is if you state something that makes them think you might no longer be disabled.


  9. I Sent My Disability Report Back I Clicked one Doctors Visit From Two Months Ago Because Doctors Are closed To The Public. My Condition is The Same As Two Years ago And Doctor And I Never ?duscussed Working And I I wrote i have cerebral policy And asthma . iam a little nervious


  10. I misunderstood the question about doctors visits being the most recent three. In my January appointment, I saw him for three different issues. On the form, I listed those three issues with the same timeframe (Jan 2020)

    Is this going to raise a red flag?


  11. Great information. Thank-you so much for all the info you give. I help fill out my son’s paperwork because it is so confusing sometimes. My biggest fear is that we will answer something wrong.


  12. So they only want/care about the 3 most recent doctors appointments? The way it’s phrased on the form, I couldn’t tell. I certainly can’t fit all the appointments I’ve had in the period they’re asking about on the one form, even if I used the entire extra space.

    My other question is do things like “medication check” count an acceptable reason? Almost all my appointments have been continuing care/check-ins for a multi-systemic condition that is difficult to define in the 16 characters the form allows. I can put “chronic pain”, but that doesn’t cover even half the things I go over with my doctors in the appointments (or take medication to treat).

    Thank you for putting up all this information. It’s been incredibly helpful. I wish I’d found it before I started filling out the form, but I’d only filled out the easy bits where nothing here would have changed my response.


    1. The form only requests three most recent visits. If you want you can attach more info, but that’s optional. If you attach things it will be read by a person instead of by the computer. Medication check seems like a good reason to me. Hope it goes great. 🏵️ 🌼💛 


  13. During the covid19 pandemic, only phone and video mental health psychotherapy sessions were possible. These dates should be listed as visits, right?


  14. My Question is doesn’t it kick it out if you write your Dr appointments dates and what you were seen for? Or can you just that blank .And just check the boxes sign and date send it off .I was reading somewhere any writing could cause it to kick it out for further review .these CDRs are very scary


  15. The diagnosis code listed on the form is not on the page from your link.
    Do you have another link that has every code in it’s entirety?
    I know what my initial diagnosis code was listed as, but I want to make sure nothing changed because I have so many odd things happen with SS.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I have a question about question number three.

    One answer must be chosen:

    1. My doctor and I have not discussed whether or not I can work.
    2. My doctor told me I cannot work.
    3. My doctor told me I can work.

    OK first, why would number two come into existence:
    Why would a doctor tell the patient they cannot work instead of the other way around?
    Isn’t it the patient who tells the doctor?

    Then the third option:
    My doctor told me I can work.
    This may be the case if someone is asking PERMISSION for some reason, like they were out for some injury that is believed to be resolved and your recovery time is believed to be complete. Otherwise, to me that sounds like the doctor is not convinced or does not have enough evidence from you or elsewhere to believe you are completely disabled according to SS rules.


      1. The reason for my questions is that I am always honest but misunderstandings/confusion/mistakes you name it plague my life over so many things that are legally and medically related and one major way this can happen is when I am forced to answer questions by anyone where none of the choices apply exactly to my situation or whatever questions are asked a “yes/no” or “you must choose one of these” fits.
        This is why I listed the exact questions because unless they are only being asked of me, I may not be the only one i this position.

        1. My doctor and I have not discussed whether or not I can work.
        2. My doctor told me I cannot work.
        3. My doctor told me I can work.

        So again, let’s say number one is not true because you did discuss it at some point (or more than once)…
        In the discussion numbers 2 or 3 did not happen, because it’s not up to your doctor to tell you if you can or cannot work but instead the patient tells the doc their personal situation…

        So number two is closest for most of us I would imagine, but I could see in the future somewhere all it says in my file or someone else’s is,
        “Doctor told her she cannot work.”
        Then someone contacts the doctor or someone with access to the records who then tells them,
        “Nope does not say that anywhere in here (especially because they are looking for exact phrase)…” and the next thing you know I am labeled a liar/a fraud or whatever…
        (They will never know there were three choices and none fit).
        This is the kind of thing that has happened to me over and over again in someone’s quest to have me labeled dishonest/untrustworthy/a liar etc.-I am never contacted when these things occur for any explanation or proof of anything because whoever is involved then thinks it’s not even necessary…
        Also, are the referring to your primary doctor in this question?
        I ask because of course many people have multiple specialists and the answers may vary depending on who they are referring to…


          1. Thank you for reply.
            I wonder who composes these things…
            All I can do is pick the one that says NO WORK.
            Doctors have not wanted to hear about SS and my doc office is closed.
            (Primary at least).


        1. If it were me i would simply state my doctor and i have not discussed it.I have never had a doctor tell me I can’t work and I usually talk about my symptoms. I never go to a doctor and say I can’t work because i am focused on getting better so i can work again.


  17. Thanks! This is helpful, especially since I had gotten a review notice a few months ago. I filled out the form & sent it back in. About a month later, I got letter stating that they did not need to review my disability. I was confused by that, but now think I understand.


  18. Thank you for your tip to be honest when filling out questions for social security benefits. My friend recently became disabled and has difficulties getting around. It’d be great if public transit systems could be handicap-friendly.


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